The Lakes: The Naming of Parts

(With apologies to Henry Reed)

One thing that soon struck me about the area we visited is that some of the place names are confusing.
For example, Ambleside borders a large lake, but that lake is not called Lake Ambleside, or even Amble Lake. Either of these names would make more sense to me than the actual name of the lake, which is Rydal Water. There is a village called Rydal, so perhaps it was named after that village before Ambleside grew into a town. Time for a change then.

Keswick is built next to a lake too. Not Keswick Lake, or Lake Keswick, but Derwent Water. This is named after the River Derwent, which actually flows into Bassenthwaite Lake, on its way west into the Irish Sea.

Ullswater is situated next to the village of Glenridding. It could be called Lake Glenridding, or perhaps even Helvellyn Lake, from the large hill that overlooks it. But it is not. It is confusingly called Ullswater. Research tells me that the derivation is possibly from a Viking word for wolves, and that the area was once known for its large population of those carnivores. Well the Vikings are long gone, and so are native wolves.

Some lakes in the area are supposedly not lakes at all. They are called ‘Tarns’. This denotes that the lake is contained on a hillside, or mountain, and has no shoreline. That’s all very well, but Red Lake is easier to imagine than Red Tarn. Or is it just me?

Another one on the list is Buttermere, a very attractive and peaceful lake. I am told that the nearby village of Buttermere took its name from the lake, and not the other way around. So how did it get the name Buttermere? Just above Buttermere is Crummock Water. There is no place called Crummock, the name deriving from the old-English for crooked, added to the local preference for calling lakes ‘Water’, instead of ‘Lake’.

I hope you see my confusion.

I have a suggestion to offer to the National Parks Service, and the county of Cumbria. Have a think about standardising the names up there. I will supply a list of ‘new’ names, free of charge.

And while I am at it, let’s have a think about the names of the hills too.

Cat Bells. Well, they look nothing like a cat, and not a bit like a bell. Catstyecam is a hill that looks like a small mountain. It does not resemble a cat, or a cat’s eye. And cats are not kept in a Sty, they are for pigs. It is also known as a ‘Fell’, the local name for hills that also has nothing to do with falling, or having fallen. Then there is Haystacks, which looks nothing at all like a haystack. I could go on, but I will not.

I have a simple solution for renaming the hills to make sense for the confused tourist. Using the standard sizes of bra cups, they could refer to their size by ascending order in this fashion. ‘B Cup Hill’, ‘C Cup Hill’, ‘Double D Cup Hill’, ‘Bullet Bra Peak’, and so on.

Easier to remember than Catsteycam, surely?

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27 thoughts on “The Lakes: The Naming of Parts

  1. Pete, this is so funny ~ I couldn’t stop giggling all through the post. I am in total agreement about the names of the lakes and I think the ‘B Cup Hill’, ‘C Cup Hill’, ‘Double D Cup Hill’, ‘Bullet Bra Peak’ ~ should be highly consider .. if, only to give the tourist a good laugh.. Great Post ,…..Take care, Laura

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  2. Divn’ worry abou’ it, marra. If yoower strugglin’ wid the names ov uz parneys an’ fells, then give uz dialec’ a gan, an’ see how thoo ge’ on, like eh.

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  3. The names of places are always fascinating. They might have made sense sometimes but many no longer. Mind you, it’s worse to be named Apple or Peach if you’re a person. Oh, well… 😉

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  4. I mentioned recently that in Missouri, there is a Lake Pomme de Terre (7,820 acres, or 32 km2). It’s named after the Pomme de Terre River. Since pomme de terre is French for potato (but composed of the French words for apple and earth), you have Potato River and Potato Lake. You have to wonder how that happened! Nearby towns are Humansville (you only get one guess as to the species that lives there!) and Weaubleau (obviously of French origin, and I see “eau”—French for water—in there, but I haven’t a clue what the name really means), named after a creek. So while the place names in Cumbria are confusing, there are some in Missouri that seem downright mysterious, if not ridiculous.

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    1. Got to love how strange some names are, and that others have no logical explanation at all.
      The unusual naming of places must be good inspiration for a limerick, surely?
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. The only thing we have to worry about here is whether ‘Lake’ goes in front of the place name or after. Lake Washington, Lake Tahoe, not Washington Lake or Tahoe Lake. Crater Lake always, not Lake Crater. Who knows why.

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    1. We met lots of locals. One bloke driving a tractor asked me something, and he had to repeat it three times before I got it. And that was only, “Was it you that closed that gate?” (It wasn’t me, by the way.) In Grasmere, I was approached by some Scousers in a car. They were looking for a hotel, and stopped to ask me directions because they said I ‘looked like a local’. That made me laugh!

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